Kim Penstone

'Same theme, year in, year out'

2004-10-13 08:14

I'm not a fan of ad campaigns that use the same theme, year in, year out. By way of example, I was one of the few who cheered when Castrol's Boet, Swaer and Moegai hit the bench.

And although I'm almost frightened to say this out loud, I firmly believe it's about time Vodacom retired Professor Bankole Omotoso and Michael de Pinna. And as for CTM's Bob and Nige (and now Barbs), the less said, the better!

Don't get me wrong. All three themes have worked very well, for all three brands, for many, many years. I'm just one of that new brand of consumer - the one with a very short attention span, who bores quickly and easily.

In addition, as someone who works in the world of marketing, I also couldn't help but agree with the Castrol marketing manager who made the call to retire the Kalahari Oasis trio, when he quoted as his primary reason the fact that the trio had become more famous than the brand.

(Although Omotoso and de Pinna bore me silly, and Bob, Nige and Barbs annoy me senseless, Vodacom and CTM remain at the centre of these campaigns, indicating to the marketer in me that they continue to have legs as a theme. Much to my continued frustration as a consumer!)

But there's one theme, for one brand, that despite its prolonged existence, has me hooked. The brand is Savannah, the theme: "It's dry. But you can drink it." And the latest spot, "Unplugged", has me rolling in the aisles (okay, on the couch, but trust me about the rolling).

The brand has been using local comedian Barry Hilton, and the now familiar, dimly-lit bar counter since its launch in the country in 1996. And despite a change of ad agencies somewhere in the middle (from TBWA Hunt Lascaris to FCB Cape Town), it has retained both the theme and Hilton.

More importantly, it has managed to do so without becoming predictable or dull, and without losing the brand's core sense of humour - which has resulted in each new rendition of the theme being funnier than the last (in my humble opinion, at least, although I've been accused of having a rather bad sense of humour!)

And to both Distell and the agency's credit, Hilton's larger than life persona has been kept in check, to the point that, out of barman character, one doesn't flinch when he reaches for a beer. The net result is that the brand, Savannah, remains the star of the show.

And while that remains the case, and the brand continues to cater to my dry sense of humour, I'll remain a fan. I may even try to drink it sometime?

  • Kim Penstone, editor of Marketingweb, eats, sleeps, drinks and dreams advertising, so please excuse her if she's become a little cynical, or worse, a navel-gazing critic. If you think she needs a dose of reality, send her your comments now.

    Alternatively, if you'd like to read her more often, go to

    Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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